Although most of the riders were concerned about the slick conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to the 2.6-mile circuit’s repaved surface from Turn 5 through 16, the laps times were anything but slow at qualifying.
The man who has the least luck of the “aliens” at Indy MotoGP was blistering fast during qualifying; Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner set a 1:38.850, which not only placed him on the pole for Sunday’s Red Bull Indy Grand Prix, but also gave him the new pole-lap record.
Stoner will be joined on the front row by the Yamaha Factory Racing duo of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Spies was over a half-second slower than the Australian, with Lorenzo 0.256 of a second behind the American.
As for Valentino Rossi, the Ducati Team rider crashed in qualifying. Rossi had to finish the session on his backup bike, and qualified 14th.
Here’s what the riders were saying following Saturday’s qualifying at Indy MotoGP.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “It’s been quite complicated, actually, sort of knowing whether to chase settings and get the bike set up, knowing whether the track was going to improve more or not.
“Session by session, it’s got gradually better. I think today it got a little bit better but not too much better than what we had this morning. We’re still undecided with settings, things like that, because if conditions improve tomorrow, then whatever we find out today is going to be irrelevant.
“So we’ve been just trying to decide how big of a steps to make, and things like this. In reality, we haven’t made a lot of changes to the bike. We’ve just been experimenting with different tires. Front, trying to get it to last a little bit longer. Without the grip we need, basically we’re just sort of tearing the front tires.
“We definitely need to improve those areas a little bit. But at the same time, on both softer compounds, we’ve done over race distance. Pretty happy with the lap times we’re getting. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens tomorrow, how it plays out. Tires will play a factor in it. We’re just going to have to see if we made the right choice and make sure we’re there at the end. I think there’s going to be a lot different race tomorrow than what it looks in qualifying.”
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “It’s going to be tough. He’s riding really fast, for sure. We’ve got a chance. We have to be perfect and not make any mistakes, and just hang on the first few laps.
“The bike’s working really good. We did race distance with the tires early on, feels great. Just couldn’t quite get the fast lap out of the bike when we put the new rear on. Just didn’t have the confidence in the front to push that little bit. We tried.
“That’s about it. We had a little problem the last couple laps. But it was fine with me because I know I didn’t have the pace to move up. But I knew we would be on the front row, so that was important for the start tomorrow. Now we’ll just look at some data and rest up and get ready for tomorrow. The Yamaha is working good, and we’re both on the front row, so we’ll try to put together a good race.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: “Quite like a nightmare, no? Before qualifying we were quite lost, especially in braking and going into a corner. I didn’t have any confidence.
“Fortunately, we tried a completely new setup for the bike this afternoon, and it improved a lot the confidence under braking so I improved the lap times so much and got closer to Casey and Ben. But we are still a little bit behind. For tomorrow it is going to be difficult to fight for a win, but at least I would like to fight for the podium.”
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP): “Today was Texas Tornado Boot Camp with a little water, a little bit more tacky clay. It was a lot better today. You could push, you could squeeze the brake up in there and be confident about it. Obviously, lap times dropped dramatically. It seems like every session they’ve gotten better and better at just getting more rubber on the track. It’s working out good. We got the bike set up good.
“There in the beginning, we went on an old tire and got like, 41.0 or 41.1 with 30 laps on the tire. So I feel good, feel confident. It should be a good race tomorrow.”
(About track surface): “You know, there is a bump there, a bump there and a bump there. But compared to most racetracks and especially compared to what it was last year, it’s just awesome. I mean, I like smooth tracks anyway, so it’s good.”
(Have you chosen a tire yet?): “Yeah, I think everyone’s chosen a tire. We just go with the harder front and the softer rear. You know, we tried the hard rear last year and ran into trouble immediately. We’re not going to make that mistake this year. We’re feeling confident.”
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP) says: “The conditions are a lot better. I ran off the track because of Capirossi riding around like an idiot on line. It was one of those things we were trying at the end of the session, but he was riding in the middle of the track when we were pushing for a grid slot. But, yeah, things seem to be taking shape. It’s much better. The track’s cleaning up nicely. It seems that we can make some improvements for tomorrow. I like the flow of it (the circuit). We just need to make it flow a little bit better for us at the moment.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “Obviously, to be on the third row is not our target. We struggled a lot again today, probably worse today than yesterday. With a new track and a bit of a new bike, we just haven’t found a direction.
“My feedback probably hasn’t been clear enough, and we really just can’t find which way to go to try to make the bike steer. In the end, I salvaged third row, if you can call it that. We’ve got a lot of homework to do tonight, but hopefully we can come up with something. I’m not expecting an easy day tomorrow, that’s for sure. We certainly not putting up the fight that we hoped here. Last year’s data is not a lot of help.
“The track has gotten a lot better. Now it is so grippy that tire wear is the problem. We’re wearing tires quite a lot, especially in the front. I went through a couple of tires really quick, so tomorrow is going to be interesting. Obviously, the cooler weather should maybe help tire wear. We’ll line up tomorrow.
“That’s why we don’t race on paper. We’ll try to go with that second group. The front group, they’re on their own. My team is working hard. I’ve got a lot of fans here. A lot of people are supporting me. We’ll dig in and try to put up the best fight we can.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “I had some problems with the tires that I couldn’t fix, so I was not running super-fast. I could not run fast enough. I was uncomfortable. The temperature affects the tires. We are one second behind the top guy, so it’s quite bad. The speeds are very fast here.”
(About race): “I will try to get some help from the back and improve and get some separation from the bikes. It is very warm, like last year.”
(About recovery from broken collarbone suffered in crash in French Grand Prix in May): “A little weaker, having less pain. I’m not as strong as before. I need some time. You don’t load the bike the same way, and you don’t push it the same way.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “This morning was much better with the bike. Unfortunately, I had a crash at the beginning (of qualifying) where I damaged the good bike. So I had to go with the other bike. It’s so strange what happened this afternoon, but now we have to understand why we have so much of a problem because the other guys were more or less faster this morning. With the first bike, I was fast from the beginning, but unfortunately, with the crash, we don’t really understand our real potential. I’m not hurt. We will see tomorrow.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “The lap time is good. Casey made a big gap. Casey was too fast for us. This is really big for Casey; he is going for the championship. The race is important. We are thinking about the podium and which drivers I will fight.”
(About track conditions): “The grip improved from this morning. The temperature was more (this morning), grip was worse. We have a really strange problem. We have to much grip in rear compared to the grip in the front. We just tried the front tire because the grip was too much in the front. We had too much temperature in the front; that could be a big problem in the race. We will run for the podium.”
Hector Barbera (Maphre Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: “The track was better today than it was yesterday. There was better grip on the new asphalt. There’s more rubber in the track. I’m enjoying driving on this track. I feel good. Tenth position isn’t the best, but I’m happy. During the race, I think it’s possible to get to seventh or sixth position. I think that’s where I can put my lap time. I think I’m about that fast. I want to do what I can to improve tomorrow and get a good result.”
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSVR MotoGP) says: “Yes, I think it was a good session. You always want to make the right decisions, and that is what we did. We improved our lap time in every session, and I’m quite happy.
“I think track conditions are much better than (Friday), and that helped improve the times. I am in the third row, and I will try to make a good start and try to follow the front riders because we are not far from the top positions. I would like to push from the very first lap, but we will see what happens. We had a problem with the reliability of the front tire. After 15 laps, it starts to slide a little bit. We will see and try to make an adjustment to improve tire life.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: “Today has been a strange qualifying session because in the first part I was pretty fast, but in the last part when we put on the soft tire I couldn’t improve very much. The front tire was completely destroyed. The new surface gave us some problems with front-tire abrasion, and we are working to solve the problem but have gotten only a little faster. I don’t know what my strategy will be. My race rhythm is not so bad. But, for sure, it will be hard to fight for positions, but I can improve my starting position.”